01.08.2011 08:59 AM

Mraz in Post: When the federal Liberals erect a small tent

“In any event, it is clear that the Liberals have decided they will go it alone. To that end, Michael Ignatieff has cautioned progressive Canadians that a vote for the Greens or the NDP is a vote for Stephen Harper. He might have added that he’s running a big tent, and he’d welcome anyone from the NDP or Greens. Even their leaders.

Even more honestly, he could simply say that without the votes of the Greens and the NDP, he will not win.”

UPDATE: “I don’t really know John Mraz.” Spare us, Rob. And quoting a blogger whose main political poll client is…the current Liberal leader. Uh-huh. What-ever.


  1. billg says:

    Here’s a novel idea…why not go out and earn votes? Hey Iggy, when a voter marks an X for the Green candidate or the NDP candidate its because they dislike you and they really dislike Harper, so, you want them to vote for someone they dislike so you can take over from someone they really dislike? Honestly, could anything be more pathetic?

  2. Malcolm Barry says:

    We all realize that many have their own agendae and this discussion has been ongoing for years. There will be a time when information sessions will be held openly to determine if it would be better for Canadianns to have the two party system, Conservatives, [Liberal/Democratic,Democratic/Liberal]. We should be saying to ourselves, Is it better for me or the Canadian Citizens to have these open discussions?

  3. Paul R Martin says:

    Why don’t you merge with the Conservatives? That would sort of get you back in power.

  4. Bill says:

    The LPC will run alone. Anyone who falls short of a majority governs for as long as they can in a minority.

    T’was ever thus.

  5. eattv says:

    Threats make me even less inclined to vote Liberal.

    They know most Canadians can’t stand Tories. However, they haven’t realized that they need to find a positive reason for people to enter the red tent.

  6. bigcitylib says:

    For me, its all about timing. I just can’t see the two parties getting anywhere in the kind of painful negotiations that would have to take place with the possibility an election hanging over their heads. Harper could drop the writ at the most inopportune moment. The only way I could see this working is in the wake of a Conservative Majority, when basically the parties involved have four years to get their act together. And I would never wish for that.

  7. JenS says:

    Funny . . . the update link is “experiencing technical difficulties.”

    Who came up with the “tent” allusion? Rife with problems. It lends itself to so many bad headlines — “Ignatieff pitches a tent for Canada,” “Ignatieff has difficulty pitching a tent.”

  8. ZibblyWibblyWee says:

    Ad Hominem = refutation fail.

    • Namesake says:

      If that pithy little formula’s intended as a definitive rebuttal to WK’s update on Silvers, you’ve just demonstrated a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, there, ‘wobbly.

      “Ad hominem” just means, “To the man,” and it’s not always fallacious to address what else a man has said — or not said — or done, in an argument. Sometimes, as they say on TV, “It goes straight to character, Your Honour,” and can quite legitimately undermine what was presented as unbiased expert testimony.

      Here’s a relevant passage on that from someone who literally wrote the book on the subject:

      “The ad hominem argument can be a reasonable way of questioning an arguer’s credibility by throwing doubt on his character (for veracity, in particular) and using that allegation to throw doubt on whether his argument has much weight in supporting its conclusion. But [it] can be used wrongly if the claim is that the arguer’s conclusion is absolutely wrong (or indefensible), as opposed to the weaker claim that the arguer’s argument for his conclusion is open to critical questioning.”

      (excerpt from “Case Study of the Use of a Circumstantial Ad Hominem in Political Argumentation,” Philosophy and Rhetoric, Vol. 33, 2000. pp. 101-115; by the philosopher Douglas Walton, author of Ad Hominem Arguments (Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press, 1998); online at http://www.dougwalton.ca/papers.htm

      In this case, Silver’s Clintonesque evasion of saying he doesn’t “really” know Mraz (in the Biblical sense?), and his failure to disclose that the blogger he now cites as independent corroborating evidence is actually indirectly employed by the Party he’s commenting on (by having them as a polling client) does call into question whether he’s being completely honest and above-board in his analysis of the likely outcome of a merger.

      • ZibblyWibblyWee says:

        And you’ve demonstrated how drenched in cliche sauce you
        are , Namesake. It seems like whenever someone uses the term “ad
        hominem” in an online thread, some pompous twit feels the need to
        announce that the charge is false simply because the original
        poster doesn’t understand what the term means. Then the twit
        proceeds to a long-winded explanation of what the term means, under
        the impression that this makes them sound very well informed
        (actually, I have several years of Latin training behind me so,
        believe you me, so if you’d like to discuss the fine points of
        advanced Latin grammar I might learn something, but your little
        exposition on this commonly used term is no more useful than the
        last fifty times I’ve seen someone rise up to self-importantly
        explain it; even by the standard internet troll standards your
        explanation wasn’t even especially good – simplistic yet
        long-winded, scattered and with logical leaps and lack of clarity,
        makes a big deal out of an unimportant source – so you might want
        to work on that). Not to mention that your attempt at claiming that
        Walton “wrote the book on the subject” literally or otherwise is
        just silly; his book might be alright, but look it up in a citation
        index and see how often it’s cited. Anyway, once we get past your
        silly attempt at making yourself sound intelligent (which
        explaining the meaning of “ad hominem” will never suffice to do
        because it’s just not that complicated, no matter how complicated
        it is for you to explain it) we can see that your own
        characterization of Silver’s argument precisely corresponds to the
        definition of ad hominem that you have just presented – since, in
        the first place, what you quote Walton as describing is, according
        to his own statement, a form of ad hominem argument. But Walton is
        simply trying to defend that form of ad hominem argument as
        legitimate. So by proceeding to make that form of argument
        yourself, you are, by your own standard, making an ad hominem
        argument. Which remains a logical fallacy, even if you and Walton
        wish to defend it. And it remains especially irrelevant in this
        case, because (a) Arnold may be indirectly employed by the party he
        is commenting on, but the data he is referring to was produced by
        Frank Graves (although Tories have sometimes claimed that Graves is
        indirectly working for the Liberals) (b) Silver’s argument does not
        exclusively or even primarily depend on Graves’s data or Arnold’s
        analysis of it – there’s more to the argument than that, which your
        ad hominem insults evade (c) even if Graves, Silver and Arnold all
        have a direct stake in promoting a certain outcome, their arguments
        can and still should be evaluated substantively, not in ad hominem
        terms, since ad hominem remains a logical fallacy. And even if you
        wish to defend its use for whatever reason, you’ve still
        demonstrated the problems with ad hominem argument, i.e., that it’s
        a distraction from actual arguments. (This is your cue to
        pontificate aimlessly on the meaning of “id est”.) Anyway, the
        important point is only this: there are important reasons to
        consider the possibility that hat a merged Liberal-NDP party would
        be able to retain all of those two parties current voters. This is
        true apart from the question of Dan Arnold and even Rob Silver.
        Thoughtful consideration of those possibilities is required for a
        merger to become an appealing prospect. Focus on that.

        • Namesake says:

          Ah, so you _can_ string more than one word together; good.

          Well, I’ve no doubt you’ve heard something like the above before, since you keep making the same mistake (it’s NOT always fallacious!), so I’ll confine my rebuttal to two words you’re sure to understand:

          petitio principii.

          • Namesake says:

            ok, I lied… I’ll expand on that, since you’ll undoubtedly
            miss the point. First, I’ll concede that, technically, your formula
            was right: as the quotation I used itself point out, even
            non-fallacious ad hominem arguments can never succeed in actually
            REFUTING someone’s conclusion: rather, their goal is to sow
            REASONABLE DOUBT by calling their credibility or veracity into
            question. Second, you’ve instinctively recognized and reflexively
            demonstrated that yourself, by calling MY expert witness’s
            credibility into question by implying he doesn’t know what he’s
            talking about since you can’t find anyone else who’s cited him. Was
            that, er, a fallacious ad hominem on your part? Or a legitimate
            argumentation strategy?

          • ZibblyWibblyWee says:

            Both of your points miss the point entirely. I never “implied” that Walton doesn’t know what he’s talking about; I just suggested that it was an illustration of your own general pomposity that you quoted him allegedly because he “wrote the book on the subject” which is just silly – he wrote one book, not an especially well known or influential book. That doesn’t make his book wrong (as I said before, I’ve never read it, so I don’t know). Moreover, I do not and did not object to the quotation of his that you presented on its own terms, i.e., I didn’t suggest that it was a false definition of the term. I simply pointed out an incongruity in your usage of it, viz., that you began by suggesting that I’d misunderstood and misused the term ad hominem, but then proceeded to provide a statement which does not demonstrate those things at all, but rather suggests that it’s a legitimate mode of argument anyway. So I just say that the use of Walton is silly and beside the point. But I never questioned his credibility. I do, however, question the claim which you use him to support, namely, that ad hominem is a useful argumentative strategy simply to cast aspersions on someone. That might be true in some circumstances, but as my post above argues, it’s not true in this circumstance. By implying this argumentative strategy you’ve distorted and misrepresented Silver’s argument and continue to evade addressing it. Your attempt to claim that there should be “reasonable doubt” by casting various aspersions ignores the actual facts which are presented and which you misrepresent (viz., the relation between Silver’s argument, Arnold’s analysis and Graves’s data, as explicated in my previous comment). Because you use a defense of ad hominem to avoid the substance of the issue you illustrate the problem with that mode of argument. Silver may not be right. But if so, you need to provide a different interpretation or substantive critique of Graves’s data, or cite alternative data. Trying to avoid doing so by citing obscure books defending ad hominem argument is not substitute for a winning electoral strategy.

          • Namesake says:

            so it’s true: Zeebles wobble but they don’t fall down.

            Well, for someone who dislikes pomposity, ad hominems, and windy explanations so much, you’ve got… you know.

            Look, neither WK nor I were claiming to have done anything to _refute_ Silver, nor are we even advancing the merger idea as a serious possibility anymore, at this juncture. It’s all a moot point, as far as the next election is concerned: there’s no way it could get done in time to prevent another Harper victory. So you’re just wasting your time/breath/keystrokes with this huffing & puffing.

            WK was just plugging another ‘told you so’-type article by one of his friends who supported the idea, as is his wont, and then he called Silver on being less than forthcoming about the relationship between the various principals in this debate, in his rebuttal.

            _You’re_ the one who came charging in wielding the great fallic sword, and I just pointed out it missed the mark.

          • ZibblyWibblyWee says:

            Unfortunately, a great deal of space is required to catalouge your litany of errors. But since you admit in not so many words that all of your ramblings are but idle chatter, I leave you to them, and commend serious readers to serious analysis.

  9. John Lennard says:

    Yeah, I also found it curious when Rob claimed he “didn’t really know” John Mraz. They were blogging buddies together at the Globe over two years ago!


  10. James Curran says:

    Of course, the fly in the ointment in my friend John’s
    argument for the big tent becoming a really big tent by including
    the NDP and Greens, is that thousands have been kicked out of the
    current Liberal tent which now resembles a pup tent. Oh, and that
    there is nobody in office currently at LPCO or on staff in Ontario
    that would even consider reaching out to anyone outside their own
    little inner circle to Liberals, let alone Greens and

  11. Namesake says:

    Ok, good, this bolsters Silver’s position by drawing on a different, more independent analyst AND a different dataset.

    But it doesn’t address Mraz’s point that the whole “So what would your SECOND choice be in the next election” question may not be nearly as definitive a source of evidence as one might think.

    For one thing, as Mraz notes, even at the time, it’s purely a hypothetical, which people may not be giving an honest answer to (‘Would I ever marry again if you died? Er, no way, honey: you’re my one and only, I’d pine for you forever!), or they may not really know their own mind that well.

    Secondly, there’s a major disanalogy between the two situations, re: the second choice of the ’08 election or even currently and the proposed scenario of collapsing the two parties, such that they’d no longer choosing between L, B, C, & N (&G & other), but: LD, B, C (&G & other). In _that_ scenario, for the ones we’re looking at, neither their first nor their second choices are there anymore, so it’s a whole new shooting match.

    So a better test of _that_ would be a whole new poll, asking, “Who would you vote for in the next election if both the Libs & NDP dissolved, and a new party were formed: the BQ, the CPC, the new Party, or Green or other?”

    Because even though, yes, there may be a lot of votes lost from the Blue Liberals and the very Orange eNDy’s, there may be a huge influx of disaffected voters that either come back to a left of centre party or vote for the first time, whether just to throw the CPC out our because they hope the worst aspects of the parties they’d stopped voting for will get lost in the mix.

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